Mathias Hovgaard shares the inspiration behind “Heartbreak 101,” a short film about ‘falling’ in love.
Love is notorious for its highs and lows and, one could argue, experiencing both extremes enables you to embrace it. Heartbreak 101, a short film by Station Film director Mathias Hovgaard and fellow Dane director Christophe Dolcerocca, looks at one extreme, recalling that feeling of being madly in love and having your teen heart brutally broken by first love gone bad. Mathias and Christophe deliver the goods with innovative and experiential nods to French New Wave Cinema which promise to enthrall anyone – no matter how young or old – who’s been down that road before.
Mathias shares his insights about making Heartbreak 101 and what he learned during the process.
Q> Were you or Christophe recently split up from a respective partner? In making Heartbreak 101, was there something specific that inspired you to go back to the circumstances around that first love gone bad?
MH> The whole process was sparked by my intentions to shoot a personal still project. Christophe and I have been friends since attending the same university. As Christophe had been shooting a lot of fashion I reached out to hear his thoughts about working with some up-and-coming talent. Things evolved from there and Christophe asked, ‘Why don’t we do a film project together at the same time.’ So, no recent split ups but a curiosity to explore the subject. I think growing older you start reflecting on your own past and your experiences. Slowly the project evolved and we both found the subject very interesting.
Q> How did you cast Heartbreak 101? Are they actors or models?
MH> We clearly wanted to mix the genres and had the idea of using sound bites from real people telling their own story. We wanted to mix that with more controlled visual elements, so from the start we were looking for interesting up-and-coming models for our cast. We wanted talent that was used to playing with the camera and posing in interesting ways without a predefined storyline. We wanted interesting characters with strong expressions and personality. The way we used the talent was a way to challenge the audience so they weren’t sure if the people they were watching were the people telling their own stories or not.
Q> There were some universal truths that came out in Heartbreak 101 like not appreciating what’s in front of you, keeping secrets, being comfortable, and monogamy. Was that scripted?
MH> Actually nothing was scripted. We wanted to keep it real and blend documentary elements with a strong visual concept. The idea of actually interviewing the talent on screen came very late in the process. The models had no idea what we would ask them and we also gave them the choice not to do it. Most of them were keen on doing an interview and it was very interesting how they reflected on the subject. We already knew that the models/talent would have something to say about the subject of their first loves gone bad, but it was interesting to get so many different perspectives on it. I love how things just happened in the moment and how these spontaneous statements clearly resonate with the audience.
Q> Talk about the music. Is it original?
MH> My co-director Christophe edited the film too, and he did a great job using different tracks as mood in the editing process. This quickly gave us an idea of where we wanted to go with the music. Afterwards we reached out to musician and songwriter Morten Thorhauge who did a perfect job. He came with his own twist on the music which made it all come together. The music really elevates the film and takes it to a new level. Johan Høyer who did the sound design was also a big part of this. He added sound elements to the music especially at the start of the film that worked perfectly with the visual storytelling. So long story short. It’s original.
Q> Heartbreak 101’s styling, cinematography/shot-making and editing also stand out. What (or who) were your inspirations and who were your key collaborators?
MH> The process was very interesting. Christophe and I come from very different styles of filmmaking. I normally shoot very real and authentic almost documentary inspired storytelling whereas Christophe comes from the world of fashion and beauty storytelling. Working together we found this space in-between where we could meet and blend the best of both worlds. I have been working on different projects with Director of Photography Rasmus Heise who had just finished work on the HBO series “The Outsider,” and I asked if he wanted to join us to explore the visual possibilities of this project. Rasmus has a great eye for working with natural light and also shooting handheld and moving with the camera.
Christophe quickly found different references. We were looking at a lot of different work, everything from old CK spots to other short documentaries. It wasn’t a single piece that inspired us.
Later in the process we decided that Christophe would do the editing himself which I’m really happy about today. The final storyline really came together in the editing room, and it was very collaborative. He did an amazing job with the final structure. I could come in and look at the overall storytelling and let Christophe work in details about what we had discussed. It worked out great.
Q> Did you learn anything new about first love gone bad? Do you think it’s much different for this generation of young people coming of age?
MH> I was quite surprised by the insight these young people had on the subject. I think it was really refreshing to interview young people who just recently had the love experiences that they talk about. Some of them were still in the middle of all this going on which gives the story a very authentic and real feel. Christophe and I were always very much aware that things should not start to get pretentious. The thing about a subject like this is it’s universal and resonates with everyone. That’s why the storyline is so strong. Even if it’s 30-40 years since you had your first experience with love this piece takes you right back and you feel the pain of each and every person in the storyline. Generation to generation I think we all go through the same heartaches and longings. The circumstances have changed a lot but in the end it all comes down to the same thing.
Q> Any plans for Valentine’s Day?
MH> After my daughter was born on Valentine’s Day 2016, the day has been taken over by her so we try to celebrate love as a family with balloons, candy, and pancakes!
Q> Any parting thoughts?
MH> Working on this project really showed me how collaborating with the right people is the key to making great things. It clearly showed me how the sum of my own and Christophe’s experience made the project better. We brought our own strengths to the project and I’m very happy that we decided to do this film together. And hey, it’s great to make people feel 17 again 🙂
Watch more of Mathias’s work HERE.